Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The Order of Melissa

instead of stalking
  (+17, -5)(+17, -5)
(+17, -5)
  [vote for,

I'd like you to meet Wolfram. He's not a suite of mathematical software, he's a German knight of c. 1200AD, turned poet.

He writes a bit like a sports-jock commentator, whose favourite sport just happens to be jousting. He compensates for the repetitiveness of his imagery with his obvious enthusiasm for, and experience of, what he describes.

He's the author of the epic "Parzival", which is a version of the Grail story, but the Grail is not what I'm talking about here. Instead, I'd like to draw your attention to a quirky little sub-plot which weaves in and out of his early chapters.

It concerns a lady, Cunneware de Lalant, who suffers some physical abuse at the hands of the churlish seneschal Keie (a.k.a. Sir Kay), which abuse comes to the attention of Parzival (a.k.a. Sir Percival).

Parzival's response is curiously indirect. He does not confront Keie in person, partly because he isn't there. While Keie is at court, Parzival is out doing his Knight Errant thing. However, on two successive occasions, having earned the surrender of a noble opponent, he transfers that surrender to Cunneware; that is, he says something to the effect of "instead of submitting to me, go to King Arthur's court and offer your submission to Lady Cunneware, who has suffered an indignity". In this way, he rebuilds the status of the beaten lady, and disturbs that of her abuser without actually being present at any point.

(The first of the surrendered knights is also a seneschal, like Keie. Their responsibilities include catering, so, having introduced themselves, they cook together. They cook pancakes for Cunneware, by way of apology. This has no bearing on the present idea, but I wanted to tell you anyway.)

When Parzival does return to court, Cunneware is very pleased to see him. She gives him a fine cloak originally worn by the other surrendered knight, and laces that cloak with a ribbon "from next her own white thigh". She closes the neck of the cloak with an emerald broach, and girds him with a gem-studded girdle, and then... nothing. Although, in the course of the poem, Parzival has a number of love-interests, she isn't one of them.

This all has to do with the idea of Courtly Love. There's a set of institutions here whereby people can exchange "strokes" in the extended sense of "stroking" used by the psycho-analyst Eric Berne, while being physically apart most or all of the time, and without the expectation of sexual consummation. Sexual consummation might happen, but if it doesn't, no-one has to feel cheated. Furthermore, since the absent man's idea of the absent woman is bound up with a sense of his own obligations, both to her and to the world in general, his desires can be sublimated in actions which, he imagines, are "worthy" of her.

Now I'd like you to consider David Smith, a programmer from New Jersey. In the late 1990s, he became pre-occupied with a Floridian lap-dancer called Melissa. Being a nerdy loser like many of us programmers, he couldn't form any sort of relationship with her, but he couldn't get her out of his head, either.

Sometimes, in this situation, stalking happens. David, however, didn't stalk Melissa. Instead, through his notorious Word macro virus, he stalked the world in her name. Every mail server he knocked over was dedicated to her, in much the same way as those bruised gentlemen turning up at Camelot asking "Excuse me, where can I find the lady Cunneware de Lalant?", but less coherently and less helpfully.

He was caught. Rightly, he went to jail. Yet, although the jail sentence was fair enough in the circumstances, the whole episode represents a terrible and avoidable waste both of the man's talents and of his feelings.

This waste would be avoided if contemporary Western society offered an acceptable meme or institutional hook on which to hang feelings like his. No, "get a life" doesn't really cut it. Nor does "move on", nor yet "get over yourself".

Meanwhile, the object of such a man's feelings, if he is cruder than Smith in the way he expresses them, is also in a very awkward position. She finds herself in a sort of "relationship" whose terms of reference are defined entirely in someone else's imagination, possibly someone else quite creepy.

So, here's the idea.

We define a form of contract, in which the woman has very few obligations beyond acknowledging the existence of the man, and the fact that they are parties to such a contract. The man has obligations to respect the woman's privacy and personal and territorial space, obligations of a kind which might otherwise be spelt out only in a restraining order because, for many people, they are just common sense. However, because the man has been acknowledged in a more or less respectful way, he is less likely to commit that kind of act that would lead to that restraining order. The woman may enter into some sort of pen-friend relationship, but may terminate that relationship, and/or the whole contract, if the man crosses certain specific lines in his correspondence without her clear consent. It is made very explicit that both parties remain free to meet, date or marry anyone they like.

There is a third party to these contracts. We might call it the Knights Errant of the Order of Melissa (Some More Errant than Others). It would not only act as a support group for obsessive, socially inadequate men who are in love. It would also ground those men on acceptable ethical foundations. Rule One would be, "Your unrequited love is not her problem". From that basis, they could ask one another, "Given that our several loves are beyond us, what Worthy things can we do to sublimate those loves?" The answers might be a mixture of bland Rotarian do-gooding and occasional showing off in the style of a Gay Pride parade. In either case, they might make people smile, but would not creep anyone out. Much.

To get this type of contract established and widely recognised, we'd have to start with celebrities, who could use it as a sort of extension to their existing fan-clubs. If we take it as a given that celebrities love attention, some of them at least might like having an identifiable body of super-fans who would do crazy things in their names, *but*, crazy things within nice, reassuring limits. Once a few celebrities have endorsed the system, it could spread. Popular but fairly ordinary girls could cheer up favoured losers with the occasional token, without raising any expectations that they didn't intend to meet. In return, they would get a distinct ego boost.

I used to know one woman in real life who pretty much achieved this with a substantial circle of admirers, but it would be easier and more widespread, and less dangerous, if there were a recognised form in which to do it. There was also a woman, Ottoline Morrell, who seems to have attempted this sort of relationship with the men of the Bloomsbury Group, but came rather unstuck because the lack of clear rules in the relationships, in that instance, exposed her to rather shabby treatment by the men.

So, the innovation I'm proposing here is not so much the Knight Servitor role itself, but rather its redefinition in a contractual and organisational form that would work nowadays, and that people could adopt with, first, minimum risk and, later, marginally reduced embarrassment.

pertinax, Jan 17 2010

Wolfram von Eschenbach http://en.wikipedia...fram_von_Eschenbach
[pertinax, Jan 17 2010]

Courtly Love http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtly_love
[pertinax, Jan 17 2010]

Melissa http://en.wikipedia...ssa_(computer_worm)
[pertinax, Jan 17 2010]

Ottoline Morrell http://en.wikipedia...dy_Ottoline_Morrell
[pertinax, Jan 17 2010]

No, not this. http://www.wolfram.com/
[pertinax, Jan 17 2010]

Germaine Greer http://en.wikipedia...wiki/Germaine_Greer
She disapproves. [pertinax, Jan 17 2010]

This one? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tungsten
[coprocephalous, Jan 18 2010]

Eric Berne http://www.ericberne.com/
[pertinax, Jan 18 2010]

Rotarians http://www.rotary.o...ages/ridefault.aspx
[pertinax, Jan 18 2010]

The Knights of the Idiotic Table http://www.stieglar.../Castles-in-the-Sky
appear in this book, but are much less nerd-friendly. [pertinax, Jan 18 2010]

Courtney Love http://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Courtney_Love
[AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jan 18 2010]

Mrs Smiling and the Pioneers-O http://en.wikipedia...i/Cold_Comfort_Farm
disingenuous expectation management [pertinax, Jan 18 2010]

Modern Romanticism http://www.historyg...ct/romanticism.html
doesn't work well for nerds. [pertinax, Jan 18 2010]

Anti-unrequited-love drug Anti-unrequited-love_20drug
interesting (tangentially related) discussion [xaviergisz, Jan 19 2010]


       I'm off to try and read a bit of this Wolfram dude. Tried Mallory - it got the better of me. I expect Wolfram will get the better of me too and then he'll send me to surrender to some bint in Cheam.   

       The idea? Nice but barmy. [+]
wagster, Jan 17 2010

       Sorry, doesn't seem healthy.
phoenix, Jan 17 2010

       Ingenious, interesting, erudite, utopian, unworkable ... This does for social engineering what the Kiritimaticentrifugomobile did for civil engineering.   

       [phoenix] I see what you mean, but I think the "unhealthy" resides in the mind of this Smith creep, no matter what. This idea merely proposes a safe, regulated, and socially sanctioned outlet for it.
mouseposture, Jan 17 2010

       Been there, done that, read the HB idea, joined the Yahoo group, became moderator of the Yahoo group, worked it all through, entered into the extended Eighty-Four Charing Cross Road-style cross-Atlantic relationship by email, made the secret documentary for Channel Four, encountered the weird synchronistic best friend turning up out of nowhere at the community group, achieved the two degrees of separation from the US Army, got the T-shirt.
nineteenthly, Jan 17 2010

       //Cunneware de Lalant// You have got to be pulling my trebuchet...
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 17 2010

       I like this. It reminds me of Don Quixote.   

       The simplest basis is a Twitter based "honor" society with a Wikipedia page of suitable honorific acts that you could dedicate to "your lady" or "your gentleman". The problem is defining suitable acts that are gallant, yet socially acceptable.   

       I have a park behind my house and I have planned for a while to write in a dark grass seed "I (heart) DH" (my wife's initials). In letters 40' tall. I figure the letters will be invisible from ground level, but easily visible on Google Satellite view. Then I figure the letters would disappear in a couple years, but even this as innocuous as it is is also probably rather illegal and thus unacceptable.   

       But in any case (+).
MisterQED, Jan 17 2010

       I think this might work in Tokyo.
wagster, Jan 17 2010

       // Being a nerdy loser like many of us programmers //   

       Aw, Ref ! Stereotyping !   

       // obsessive, socially inadequate men who are in love //   

       You are SO looking for a smack ...   

       // but would not creep anyone out. Much. //   

       So, no collecting edged and projectile weapons and dressing in black a lot, then ?   

       // favoured losers //   

       Will you shut up now, or would you prefer internal hemorrhaging ?   

8th of 7, Jan 17 2010

       absolute worst nightmare.
WcW, Jan 17 2010

       // Go watch Groundhog Day a few more times //   

       Recursion ?
8th of 7, Jan 18 2010


       An admirable and noble way to turn romantic urges to a higher calling.
gisho, Jan 18 2010

       So it's a problem in search of coddling? What prevents the love mad individual from taking this system too far? Making it "official" and ceremonial only allows those most caught up in this painful behavior to entwine themselves further. This stuff already happens and don't see this effectively changing it for the better. People have unrequited relationships for which they make silly sacrifices. Their objects indulge this, or not.
WcW, Jan 18 2010

       // What prevents the love mad individual from taking this system too far?//   

       "System" is the important word here. The absence of system is a significant part of the existing problem. "Going too far" happens largely because people inhabit the nineteenth century Romantic meme, where passion trumps institution, who are not temperamentally well equipped to do so. The thirteenth century Romance meme, where institution shapes passion, would fit these people better.
pertinax, Jan 18 2010

       Have you considered dedicating this idea to anyone, [pertinax]?
wagster, Jan 18 2010

       I'm tempted to dedicate it to [WcW].
pertinax, Jan 18 2010

       //it never seems to be good in the long run//
I think this has a lot to do with expectation management.

       //Sorry, doesn't seem healthy.// -[phoenix]
//it is much easier to get the girl by improving himself// - [bobofthefuture]

       One of the things I'd most like to achieve is to move the goal-posts of "healthy". I've already written elsewhere (see my profile page) about ways in which we nerds can move ourselves towards "health", (and improve ourselves with the specific goal of getting the girl) but I think our longer-term well-being depends just as much on our being able to move "health" towards us.   

       I believe the definition of health used by [phoenix] owes a lot to Sigmund Freud. I've just been re-reading him. This time around I find him absurd and offensive, not because of what he says about sex, but because of what he says about nerds. He was not the only opinion-former of the past two hundred years to envision a future in which we are dispensable, but he was able to put the knife in much more effectively, because he could do so under the "trust me, I'm a doctor" rubric.
pertinax, Jan 18 2010

       The objects of the limerence would really prefer that you'd never been born. This doesn't really fulfill that desire. It might be a way of achieving something for the wider world though.
nineteenthly, Jan 18 2010

       wordy nonsense   

       you aren't responding to objections at all   

       why not simply remind the love sick individual that objectification re. their love interest reflects a pathological disinterest in the personlaity of that individual as well as a deep seated displaced self loathing. These are not the features of a noble lancer for hire they are the features of a person who wasn't modeled the values of healthy reciprocal relationships in their formative years.
WcW, Jan 18 2010

       //you aren't responding to objections at all //   

To the objection that the arrangement is unhealthy, I have responded by calling into question the definition of "healthy". If this sort of arrangement is so unhealthy, that implies that large numbers of apparently well-functioning people in medieval Europe, and also in present-day Japan (and other present-day cultures) are somehow mentally ill without knowing it. Doesn't that seem like a rather arrogant thing to insist on?
To the objection that distant, one-sided love usually works out badly, I have responded by suggesting that, like many forms of unhappiness, this results from inappropriate expectations. In the real-life case of Lady Morrell, her expectations were too high. In the fictitious (but true-to-life) case of Mrs Smiling, her admirers' expectations were too high. In this idea, I have set expectations clearly and low.
To the objection that it is better for a man just to make himself more attractive, I have responded by pointing out that this idea is complementary to self-improvement, not a substitute for it. Having said that, I also feel that society as a whole would in many cases benefit more from a man who is dedicated (to *something*) than from one who is merely glib and decorative. But maybe that's just a matter of taste.
To the objection that an individual might take this system too far, I have not previously bothered to respond, simply because of the difficulty of imagining any credible scenario where the individual would behave worse with the restraints of peer pressure and a prior contractual arrangement than without them. Perhaps you could sketch me such a scenario.
To the objection that obsessive people give you nightmares and shouldn't be allowed (or "coddled"), my response is that this is more your problem than mine.

       Let me know if I've overlooked any objections there.   

       Now, I have some objections.   

       //pathological disinterest in the personlaity of that individual as well as a deep seated displaced self loathing//   

       I don't think you'll find this view well supported in contemporary evidence-based psychiatry. Psychoanalysis, yes, but that's strictly speaking pseudo-science, and sometimes (not always) rather destructive pseudo-science at that. (Yes, Eric Berne was a "good" psycho-analyst, but he drew less on Freud than on the prior art of the heroic nerd Wittgenstein).   

       //These are not the features of a noble lancer for hire//   

       Now, here's an interesting point; on what basis would you define the features of a noble lancer for hire? My source on the subject is the contemporary writing of an actual medieval lancer for hire. What do you know about it that he doesn't?   

       //they are the features of a person who wasn't modeled the values of healthy reciprocal relationships in their formative years//   

       This is actually dangerously ignorant. Specifically, it reflects ignorance of recent neuro-science. The fact is that some people, from birth, are predisposed to respond much better to structure and regulation than to empathy. Such people can "grow into" empathy, and it is desirable that they should, but the dogma that empathy alone, without "repressive" regulation, could or should do all the behavioural heavy lifting, for all individuals, is hundred-year-old wishful thinking.
pertinax, Jan 19 2010

       Somehow I got Melissa confused with Eliza initially and thought that the idea was going to be some kind of 13th century story-telling chatbot to help someone get over their fixations.   

       I don't think the existence of a society of potential stalkers could do much of anything to improve its image; it would too quickly become the butt of the joke for anyone to admit that they belong to it.
RayfordSteele, Jan 19 2010

       I took this as a society to guide people away from stalking, but maybe that is naive, but maybe not. I saw this as a constructive path for admiration. Say I was attracted to Sofia Vergara (or fill in suitable actor, etc.) and I wanted her to know that. Maybe I donate money in her name to a charity that I read she liked. Or maybe I do some other charity work in her name. Maybe this starts a bidding war, as it were. Someone ups the ante by having clean water wells dug in Africa in her name, I then support a school in Columbia with internet access. She hears about it and I get a signed picture in the mail, that includes a real thank you note.   

       That would be cool. I think if you give people some motivation to do good things, they will do it. Get enough people thinking about new and original good things and REALLY good things may happen. There is an enormous amount of nerd potential energy that is being wasted. Give it a direction and amazing things could happen. This is how open source projects thrive.
MisterQED, Jan 19 2010

       cool and delusional. that isn't love of the sort that would survive in a sharing a home type relationship. why pretend that this has anything to do with affection or emotional intellectual or physical closeness? might as well dedicate yourself to a fictional character.
WcW, Jan 19 2010

       //might as well dedicate yourself to a fictional character.// You do realize that thousands of people dedicate themselves to fictional characters. Don't believe me? Go to a SciFi convention, it is a scary realization. I saw a 500lb man in a Star Trek uniform. Want to see TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars spent on meaningless or near meaningless pursuits with laughable rewards? Go to a Hamfest. People build HUGE antenna farms in their backyards, cower in unheated shacks, and bath only seldomly to exchange QC cards from complete strangers to get awards like "worked all continents", "worked all States" or "worked all tyrannical dictatorships". What do you think a dozen of them could get done to impress a real flesh and blood person?
MisterQED, Jan 19 2010

       There is a neurological connection. However, it's also comforting and absolves one of responsibility to cleave to that explanation. There's a neurological issue in substance addiction too. The nature of limerence is such that people get it without any connection to their pre-existing personality. It isn't particularly connected to being OCD or addictive, but circumstances have to lead one into the cul de sac. Once one is in the cul de sac, it's difficult to reverse out of it. The answer is therefore to prevent it, and this might be done by education. People need to become emotionally literate earlier and something has to be done about that. Once you get into the situation, not only is it hard to escape, but also it interferes with productivity, fulfilment and personal growth in various ways. It's not just a question of an isolated individual pining away because others suffer from their unrealised potential.   

       One common process is for someone to move towards a resolution, one way or the other, of the "loves me, loves me not" kind, which is for some reason frustrated. Then you get stuck. That's unlucky, but it may be something everyone is in danger of. Some people get closure quickly and move on. If you don't, who's to say that you're some obsessive loser? The evidence doesn't back that up so far, and work has been done on that.   

       Ham radio then. I don't practice it myself, but i recognise its value in oppressive situations where everything else is being watched by the authorities. I wouldn't consider them to be pathetic basement people but people who can get information out when that really needs to be more widely known. On a personal note, it's looking like i'm going to have to get into packet radio because the government have openly said they're watching what home ed people are doing on the 'net. Not paranoia but a public memo from the DCSF. Triangulation is a risk there of course.   

       Also, people have their obsessions, some of which are more popular or socially acceptable than others. People follow sports and religion too. What's the essential difference between those and trekkies? They could all seem about equally pointless from the outside.
nineteenthly, Jan 19 2010

       //Also, people have their obsessions, some of which are more popular or socially acceptable than others. People follow sports and religion too. What's the essential difference between those and trekkies? They could all seem about equally pointless from the outside.// I'm not really make fun of hams, except the bathing part, because that is just nasty. I'm a ham, and yes own thousands of dollars of equipment and also I have other hobbies that I cannot defend. I mentioned them and trekkies to make a point. They say sex sells, but really just the idea of sex sells. People see supermodels in clothes and then buy those clothes, without any real expectations that they will sleep with the supermodel. If the world could channel that energy into something that would really impress people, amazing things could happen. Give people one more reason to do nice things for other people and they might do it.
MisterQED, Jan 20 2010

       That's a good point. One of my suggested solutions was to turn unrequited love into random acts of kindness. There is a lot of wasted energy in this and once you're in that place it'd be good if something could be done, but prevention is better than cure. When i was looking at stalking research, it struck me that there was a strong focus on what should be done about people who were already stalking, which is too late really. It's like treating lung cancer rather than trying to find a way to help people give up smoking or not start in the first place - it misses the point and is only useful once some damage has already been done.
nineteenthly, Jan 20 2010

       History has many examples of people who became enamored of a charismatic figure and did things that they figured that person would want them to do, with horrible consequences.
WcW, Jan 20 2010

       I think what you describe is what is going on here at the Halfbakery, except in a gender neutral way, and the obsessive feeling is not necessarily love. Perhaps it is love in the agape sense rather than the individually focused sort of love. The third party moderator is definitely represented more or less as described and as regards /meaningless or near meaningless pursuits with laughable rewards/   

       please refer to long block of text above starting with "I'd".
bungston, Jan 20 2010

       //History has many examples of people who became enamored of a charismatic figure and did things that they figured that person would want them to do, with horrible consequences.// I'd agree, so wouldn't it be better if there was some guidance and vetting system that better channeled that energy?   

       And I agree with [bungston] that this is occurring here. There is some part of me that cares and applies effort to impress people here who will never have any real part in my life. Is that weird? Yes, I think so. Is one one of you a 7' tall viking princess who could have a poster I would have displayed proudly on my college dorm wall? I don't know. If that image was true, would I want to impress them more? Probably. Even if we will never meet, yes.   

       Does this analogy apply to a girl who watches George Clooney on TV every week and decides to donate her time to a local hospital so she can tell him about it? Maybe.   

       Back to the HB, what do any of us get out of this special place for all the time we put in it? Money, fame, sex? I guess the later is possible, but massively unlikely, though I've never been to a Halfcon. :-) I think the most we may get is recognition from people whom we've come to respect. In a way we are nerds giving out points for playing a game. I see "The Order of Melissa" as a slightly different game, probably played on a larger scale because of the magnifying element of fame.
MisterQED, Jan 21 2010

       //obsessive loser? The evidence doesn't back that up so far, and work has been done on that.//   

       I defer to your knowledge in this area, [nineteenthly]. I have an obsession of my own. Mine is with the Asperger-type personality, and it's those people I had in mind, more than the totality of those who experience limerence. Actually, I didn't even use the term "limerence". Except just then. D'oh.   

       //People need to become emotionally literate//   

       This is true. However, some of us find this learning process easier if there are appropriate social rule-sets within which we can "practice". The obsolete custom of introducing people to each other, for example, is sadly missed in this connection. So are many types of formal courtesy. Hence, the category of this idea.   

       There is an individual known to me who, in addition to being "on the autism spectrum" has permanent brain damage following a bashing by an off-duty solder. He'd said the wrong thing. He'd said it because, as a nerd, he had no instincts about the right thing to say, but he'd been brought up to be spontaneous and say what was in his head. Now, had he grown up in the "bad old days", when people tended not to speak when they hadn't been introduced, neither the conversation nor the brain damage would have happened.   

       This is why, back in 1905, Freud found the un-sexy "savant" type merely boring, rather than particularly pathological; the social institutions were there that supported such people. It's only when you take those institutions away that we start to turn up in psychiatric clinics.   

       It's quite funny to make a survey of the interventions which are now being tried where autism spectrum disorders are identified early. Not all of them are equally effective but, reading between the lines, it looks to me as if experts are gradually and reluctantly re-inventing, under different names, the controlled, repetitive environment of the pre-twentieth-century classroom. Or maybe that's just my imagination.   

       Of course, we wouldn't want to turn back the clock to before Freud, because some people are clearly better off for the last hundred years of cultural change. However, we nerds are generally not. So, I believe there is a need for social structures, and I emphasize "structures", within which we can develop social skills and self-knowledge. Most such structures would have to be less picturesque and more practical than the Order of Melissa. Unlike the Order of Melissa, they would be driven by changes in public policy in the fields of education, humanities research and the arts. For various reasons, most of these changes don't really belong on the Half Bakery.
pertinax, Jan 21 2010

       //I took this as a society to guide people away from stalking//   

       That's exactly right. Preferably, to do so before they start stalking. If obsessive people meet like-minded others and do constructive things in association with those others then, other things being equal, they are more likely to develop and become emotionally literate than if they stay at home tending their shrines. In particular, seeing other peoples' obsessions close up might help them to put their own in proportion. Of course, the whole thing would work better if it did not consist entirely of desperate cases, but also included mellow individuals who just regarded it as a good game.. like the HB, as [MisterQED] mentions.
pertinax, Jan 21 2010

       I could get lambasted for this by someone who's not aware of the number of autistic people with whom i have dealings, but it seems to me and to others that the problem with the idea of autistic spectrum disorders is the last word in that term. It's a particularly clear example of how the world is disabling.   

       At the same time, limerence is undiscriminating in its victims, by which i mean the LO and the one who is fixated. There are probably some people who are immune, for instance the dyssocial might be, but those who are unable to experience limerence are impaired in other ways. To me, this means that limerence has a fairly clear function.   

       Concerning AS"D" and schools, i've had that thought myself. However, conversations with the parents of such children reveal the problem that they have to make a transition from a routine with which they're familiar to one with which they aren't. If they can manage that, such a situation might well be suitable. If for some reason they're already institutionalised, it could work really well, though it's worrying to imagine how that would've come about in the first place.
nineteenthly, Jan 21 2010

       I have been thinking about the sort of culture that supported "courtly love". I wonder if conservative Muslim culture might be similar. Perhaps the energies of young jihadists could be diverted to courtly love-type pursuits in honor of God and some virtual and chaste Melissa equivalent?
bungston, Jan 21 2010

       I'm afraid they're ahead of you there. That's what houris are for. The trouble with entirely imaginary houris, as compared with semi-imaginary celebrities, is that it is more difficult for them, or for any actual person whose public face is veiled, to convey disapproval of those of their fans whose idea of devotion is to self-detonate in a crowded market place.
pertinax, Jan 23 2010

       //the problem with the idea of autistic spectrum disorders is the last word in that term. It's a particularly clear example of how the world is disabling.//   


       I would add, though, that it is important to note that in this case it is not the world as a whole, but the West in particular, that has *become* disabling. Hence my current anger against Freud, and against other opinion formers who have contributed to this process.   

       I'm afraid I may have been unduly rude to [WcW] because he or she put forward broadly Freudian views just after I'd been reading the essay in which Freud declares, in effect, that we nerds are negligible, and that our needs and interests are not to be taken into account in the brave new world he imagined. The essay in question is "Civilized Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness". I would link to it, but I have not yet found the text on the web.
pertinax, Jan 23 2010

       //the problem with the idea of autistic spectrum disorders is the last word in that term. It's a particularly clear example of how the world is disabling.//   

       I find this an enlightening viewpoint, but what do you say (sign) to deaf parents of children with cochlear implants?
mouseposture, Jan 23 2010

       I haven't got everything worked out. There are some situations which it might not be sensible to analyse this way and i don't know what they are. All i can say right now is "good question".   

       [Pertinax], placing different accounts of what might be called mental disorders side by side, say, with a cognitive, physiological and a Freudian account next to each other, i find that the last is startlingly redundant and elaborate compared to the others, though all of them seem to miss the point in different ways. I think of affective "disorders" more in that respect than others, though others spring to mind, one of which is the autistic spectrum. It seems, if it's to be reduced to a "nothing but" type problem within the brain, the real issue there is salience. One is presented with manifold sense-impressions out of which one is somehow expected to fish things like eye contact, intonation, muscle tone and the position of limbs along with the whistle from the telly, the smell of the carpet, that ripped piece of wallpaper in the corner near the ceiling and the feeling of the fabric of one's trousers on one's left knee. If one is lucky enough to have the requisite filters in place, one gradually develops a hypothesis that there are other consciousnesses separate from one's own inherent in some of the objects in one's vicinity. Alternatively, one may not have ascertained that possibility, and in the end, why would one?
nineteenthly, Jan 23 2010

       the real modern question about Freud is if you accept the weight he puts on development and the influence of the early years. The much maligned Freudian "stages of development" were massively influential, and exist essentially unchanged in modern practice (although they have been craftily disguised).   

       In my opinion modern psychology is more of a black art than a science. Practitioners of clinical and social psychology are the modern analog of the witch doctor. They understand the humors and the inclinations of the animal spirits and they have crude and dangerous treatments, really no more crafty than blood letting and tinctures of mercury and they listen. Key treatment listening . Seems to be almost as effective as the knife for some conditions.. ...
WcW, Jan 24 2010

       Humours are a way of expressing tendencies in particular directions, and Jung introduced them to psychoanalysis. There are myths which work well, including Freud, and they can be self-fulfilling, particularly since many of them have been adopted into common parlance. However, they may also be restrictive.   

       Concerning stages, whereas it seems important to be able to do one thing before another, it's also important not to fix them dogmatically to particular ages. I do think that ego defences are Kantian categories in disguise. I also think a lot of Freud is rather like pareidolia.   

       Psychology is flawed, perhaps essentially so, partly by using mechanical metaphors for the mind. Freud's mind is a steam engine and more recent understanding is as a computer. The fact that it's possible to simulate something on a computer to a degree doesn't mean that simulation is the real thing.
nineteenthly, Jan 24 2010

       // The absence of system is a significant part of the existing problem. // There is a system, it's called basic human respect. You're suggesting a contract to enforce what should already be a given, and should be suitably dealt with when absent. Why doesn't "get a life" cut it? Seems to do the job perfectly to me.   

       There are a lot of words here and I didn't get through all of them, so apologies of this has already been addressed, but this strikes me as giving some validity to the sorts of people you'd be better off to keep your distance from.
tatterdemalion, Jan 24 2010

       Often the problem is that during the attempt to get a life, something goes wrong and people fail to get closure. We're all vulnerable. There are certainly obsessives and people who have pathological beliefs about others, but that doesn't account for the majority.   

       This kind of thing happens when people going through the normal process of finding a partner and settling down with them encounter something which interferes with the usual course of events. Examples are, people unexpectedly going out of town when you're about to ask them out, "friends" lying about someone's feelings for you, trying to pretend you don't feel something for someone you actually do feel something for out of consideration for the feelings of others, meeting someone and having to move jobs, home, college or whatever before getting closure and so on. These people, of whom i have of course been one, are not all losers or people with inadequate social skills. It's a common vulnerability which people often fall into due to straightforward bad luck. OCD traits in other areas, psychotic characteristics or ASD stuff is not overrepresented in these people. Studies have been done. Dorothy Tennov is one person who did a lot of work in this area.
nineteenthly, Jan 24 2010

       //Why doesn't "get a life" cut it?//   

       As I understand it, this invention *is* "get a life." It's directed at people who can't, on their own conceive of what a "life" would be. It provides them with a prefabricated "life" that's simplified down to a level they can actually manage to live.
mouseposture, Jan 24 2010

       I don't quite agree. I think they generally either had a life and lost it through no fault of their own or were trying to get one through the usual dating type channels and it misfired, again accidentally. Some of them will be emotionally immature, obsessive-compulsive or otherwise have some pre-existing kind of problem which could be seen as related to mental health, but they will, believe me, be in the minority. It's a stereotype.
nineteenthly, Jan 24 2010

       when a behavior has taken on a pervasive character that overwhelms the identity of the person interrupting their connection with a social identity and goals in a very broad sense, then we could describe that behavior as pathological: an addiction to a particular self stimulation. Admittedly social enforcement to limit addiction also tends to place limits on personal liberty. All I can say is that we should have a society that teaches young people to value their intellectual flexibility independence and plasticity. If you fall into a rut or find that you are at a dead end don't camp there; don't live there and pretend that you intended to end up there. Pull out, re-boot and try again. Forget "I love Mellisa", without social policing it might as well be "My life for Heroin".
WcW, Jan 24 2010

       The behaviour does become pathological in a sense, but there's not usually pre-existing morbidity. In terms of physical parallels, it's more like an accidental injury than a physical disease. It might lead to a whole host of mental issues, but they could happen to anyone who doesn't have a different set of problems. It probably wouldn't happen to someone who could be categorised as dyssocial, but it could easily happen to most other people. Having said that, i agree 100% that there's an urgent need for emotional literacy, and i've seriously considered the possibility of setting up a charity with that purpose in mind. That's how strongly i agree with most of your anno, [WcW].   

       I did what i could in the circumstances, as it stands, and i think an hour-long documentary on national TV is better than nothing.
nineteenthly, Jan 24 2010

       Well that's killed conversation, hasn't it? Anybody want a Brazil nut?
nineteenthly, Jan 24 2010

       Seriously. Email me your address and i'll post you one.
nineteenthly, Jan 24 2010

       Just one nut? How quixotic!
afinehowdoyoudo, Jan 25 2010

       Well, i'm not in the business of posting hundreds or thousands of Brazil nuts all over the world.
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2010

       Then again, maybe i am.
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2010

       For anyone considering this idea, our society also desperately needs eunuchs.
rcarty, Jan 25 2010

       Yes it does, in fact it should probably be run by eunuchs and people with Turner's syndrome.
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2010

       Exactly. However, how do you know that the total loss of physical gonads wouldn't lead to phallic-style overcompensation?
nineteenthly, Jan 25 2010

       Maybe in today's society they would be different, but from what I've read they have a proven track record.
rcarty, Jan 25 2010


       I haven't had to look up so many words in a long time. I can't find a definition for entesticulated though. From the context I take it to mean malleable, is that right?   

       //entesticulated// I think you mean "masculated"   

       //should probably be run by eunuchs// In China, that's a classic sign that a dynasty is on its last legs and about to collapse.
mouseposture, Jan 25 2010


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